When someone mentions The Bahamas to you, what comes to mind? Is it the bustling city of Nassau and the resorts on Paradise Island? Is it the ritzy lifestyle on the Exumas? Or is it possibly the historic past of the Bimini Islands? Could it even be … pirates? Beyond all this glitz, there are many more islands to explore, and if you head south, then Inagua, The Bahamas will take you away from that hustle and bustle.
Tranquil. Peaceful. Idyllic natural beauty. Situated between Cuba and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and just north of the Windward Passage, this southern-most region of the Bahamas takes you to Inagua. While lesser known than the other islands, there is something truly special about this place that you just must experience yourself.
When you travel, it’s usually the people you meet that makes your travels memorable. We at Naked Pirate Travels are fortunate enough to have connected with two people, Steven and Patty Fawkes, who are simply the type of people you’d want to live next door to you. Steven is a former harbor master in Inagua and former mayor of Mathew Town, while Patty is a nurse who works at the local health clinic. Together, it’s no stretch to say they are the history, the memory, and the heart of Inagua. You will want to meet them. Truly.
Great Inagua Island only has ~900 people living there, and Little Inagua Island is uninhabited. Visiting these islands not only offers seclusion, wildlife, and natural beauty, but people who are as genuine as they come.
History and Culture
The main town on Great Inagua, Mathew Town, was built from 1844 to 1848 by George B. Mathew, who was a civil engineer and the governor of the Bahamas at the time. Mathew Town was the first planned town in the Bahamas and continues to be the main cultural center on the island.
Other landmarks were built in succession as the island population grew. A jail house was built in 1849, followed by the St. Phillips Anglican Church in 1855 and the Great Inagua Lighthouse in 1870. These historic landmarks, and more, are yours to explore on the island.
Although relatively few in number, some notable accomplishments have been made by Inaguans. Alan Minns became both the first colored mayor in England, as well as for all of Europe, in 1904. Many popular musicians come from Inagua and include Blind Blake, Avvy, Bassy, and Stileet.
Although Junkanoo is the most prominent festival on many of the islands, the festivals on Inagua tend to promote what the island is known for – its cultural heritage and natural beauty. In addition to the Seafood Fest and Inagua Heritage & Salty Festival that highlight the community’s connections with the sea, there is the Home Coming Festival. This festival celebrates the end of slavery in the Bahamas in 1834 and occurs on the first Monday of every August.
Morton Salt Company
The largest employer at Great Inagua is the Morton Salt Company. As pretty much everyone uses or knows about Morton Salt, you may very well have some Inagua-produced Morton Salt sitting somewhere in your kitchen! Morton operates the second largest solar salt operation in North America in Inagua and produces about 1 million pounds of salt annually. Tours of the site are available and the solar salt operation covers a vast area of 300,000 acres.
Great Inagua Island is the third largest island in the Bahamas, measuring about 85 km long and 30 km wide at its widest location. Little Inagua Island, smaller still, is only about 17 km wide and 13 km wide. On Great Inagua, about half of the island is a nature preserve known as Inagua National Park. A large interior lake, Lake Rosa, is about 24 km long and resides both in the Park while extending to the western coast of the island.
If you want to visit Little Inagua Island, the only access is by boat.
When it comes to clean living and plentiful wildlife, Inagua is definitely the place you want to be. Around 80,000 West Indian Flamingos reside in Inagua, many at Lake Rosa. The population was once endangered, but now thrives and seeing these colorful birds in their natural habitat is one of the highlights of a visit.
If you’re an avid bird watcher, then there are also opportunities to get a glimpse of the Bahamian Parrot, Kirtland’s warbler, the Inagua Woodstar (a hummingbird), egrets, burrowing owls, and Night Crown herons. There are 140 species of birds that live, or migrate, at Inagua, so be prepared with camera, binoculars, and your tour guide!
Besides fowl, there are wild animals around – both feral and completely untamed. In the 19th Century, French explorers brought goats to the island. There are also feral pigs, donkeys, cows, and cats. Truly wild life includes a native freshwater turtle (that apparently moves very quickly), different species of duck, and a lizard – all of species only found on Inagua.
If fishing is your thing, then Inagua won’t disappoint. Whether it’s reef fishing, deep sea fishing, or fly fishing, the southern Bahama waters are rich in many varieties of fish that can be caught year-round. Bonefish is notable in the Bahamas and seems to have some type of sordid reputation. However, you can also try for wahoo, barracuda, snapper, sailfish, and kingfish. In Lake Rosa, you can even fish for tarpon.
As you can imagine, Inagua is known as an eco-tourism site thanks to its abundance of wildlife, birds, and location a bit off the Bahamian beaten path. Seadog Travels has been working directly with Steven Fawkes to develop travel to the island so you can experience and enjoy the beauty of the island. Overall, we can book groups up to 10 people and groups can ala carte select activities that they want. Activities include half- and full-day snorkeling and fishing excursions, and birding tours (flamingos only or an all-island birding tour). Pick and choose as much, or as little as you want, as we know some of you just want R&R all day long.
Accommodations are comfortable and there are several small inns and hotels to choose from. We offer Red Knot Manor, which can accommodate six people, and this hotel is situated at a waterfront location. In fact, it’s the only waterfront hotel on the island, so it’s a prime location and very reasonably priced.
If you’re feeling hungry and want to indulge in the local cuisine, several options are available. Take a short trip to Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar, S and L Restaurant and Bar, Cozy Corner, and Shenai’s Restaurant and Bar – among others. At Red Knot Manor, you can also hire a personal chef who can cook American-style breakfasts and dinners. That includes gluten-free options, too.
Contact the Pirates today to begin exploring your exploration at Inagua. We’ll make sure you meet Steven and Patty, and you can be assured they’ll take good care of you!
Article written by Paul S. Hardersen. We thank Steven Fawkes and The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for their insights and information about Inagua, as well as for some of the photos in this article.